Welcome

Welcome to the website of the Montreal folkgrass trio Steel Rail. Strong original material, superb three-part harmonies and hot picking have helped Tod Gorr, Ellen Shizgal and Dave Clarke win a loyal fan base in Central Canada. After almost a decade of living on opposite ends of the continent, the threesome are back together in Quebec, making new acoustic music that reflects the best of the folk, bluegrass and country traditions.

Check out their new album, Coming Home.

Join our mailing list for the latest news

October 18, 2021 

CFMA nomination for Dave! 

We're delighted to announce that Dave is one of five nominees in the solo instrumental category at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. 

Dave joins Olivier Demers, Maneli Jamal, Adam Young and Cédric Dind-Lavoie in the category Instrumental Solo Artist of the Year. Dave was nominated for his new album The Healing Garden. 

The CFMAs will be held on the weekend of April 1-3, 2022. 

You can read about all the amazing nominees here. 

Thanks to all the organizers and judges who make these great awards happen.

June 21, 2021  

Our new single is out!

We're pleased to report that we are releasing Kate's Song from our latest album as a single this week.

The song, written by Ellen, celebrates the resiliency of the human spirit -- something that seems fitting as we seem to be emerging from the pandemic in North America. 

Kate’s Song was written after Ellen saw Kate McGarrigle perform at the Royal Albert Hall shortly before her death. Then when she saw footage of people singing after a devastating earthquake, she was inspired to write about humankind’s ability to find comfort in music in the darkest times. 

The song quickly became a band favourite. And we're not the only ones.

Longtime friend -- and multiple Juno Award-winner -- David Francey calls the song a “gem.” “There’s such a hopeful melancholy woven into this melody, and such a compassionate grace inherent in the lyrics,” he said. 

The song features longtime McGarrigle collaborator Joel Zifkin in a soaring violin part. 

"I am grateful to have been able to play a part in Steel Rail’s lovely impressionistic ode to this human spirit," Joel told us. 

And renowned DJ Michael Regenstreif, the dean of Canadian folk journalists, wrote that Kate's Song is "about grief and, ultimately, the healing power of music. In the opening verse, we bear witness to the final song of the final performance of friend and beloved singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle, just six weeks before she passed away from cancer at age 63. In the second verse, the song takes us to Haiti, where a devastating earthquake a few weeks after Kate’s last song took the lives of many thousands of people, and we hear about a survivor whose grief is comes out in the song he sings. In the final verse, the focus becomes universal as all of us find solace in song and 'sing till we can sing no more.'"

In case you missed it, you can hear Kate's Song here

Stay tuned for more good Steel Rail news soon.

February 16, 2021 

International recognition for Dave's guitar music 

Great news -- Dave's instrumental A Thousand Days Like This was a winner at the U.S.-based International Acoustic Music Awards, announced Feb. 12.  

The song, one of 12 on Dave's new album The Healing Garden, was first runner-up in the Instrumental category. Top prize went to another guitarist, John McMillan.  

The IAMA awards recognize excellence in acoustic music, and judging is based on performance, songwriting/composition/song choice, music production and originality/artistry.  

If you'd like to see the winners in other IAMA categories, click here.  

For more news about Dave's new album, please click here.

January 17, 2021  

Critics name Coming Home one of top 2020 albums

Thanks to the Canadian folk Bible Penguin Eggs and to the musical experts who take part every year voting in the magazine's annual top albums of the year list.

We're pleased to report that Steel Rail's 2020 release Coming Home was among the top 10 picks for several of the voters this year, and the band was one of two honourable mentions in the overall Top 10 list. We thought we'd post those selections so you can see the other great albums that were on people's must-listen lists this year.

The lists are in alphabetical order; each "pick" counted for one vote.

Mike Barker, artistic director, Folk Under the Clock, Peterborough, Ontario 

  • Sam Carter, Home Waters 
  • Kris Drever, Where the World Is Thin 
  • Bob Dylan, Rough and Rowdy Ways 
  • Roy Forbes, Edge of Blue 
  • Sam Lee, Old Wow 
  • Catherine MacLellan, Coyote 
  • Pharis and Jason Romero, Bet on Love 
  • Steel Rail, Coming Home 
  • The Waterboys, Where the Action Is 
  • James Webster, We Get By 

  Patrick Langston, freelance arts writer 

  • Bob Dylan, Rough and Rowdy Ways 
  • Eliza Gilkyson, 2020 
  • Fleet Foxes, Shore 
  • Laura Marling, Song for Our Daughter 
  • Lynn Miles, We’ll Look for Stars 
  • Owen Pallet, Island 
  • Pharis and Jason Romero, Bet on Love 
  • Phoebe Bridgers, Punisher 
  • Shirley Collins, Heart’s Ease 
  • Steel Rail, Coming Home 

  Jim Marino, host Free Wheeling Folk Show, 93.3 CFMU, Hamilton 

  • Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, King of This Town 
  • David Bradstreet, Best Foot Forward 
  • Scott Cook, Tangle of Souls 
  • Ken Dunn, Ashes in the Morning 
  • Kathleen Edwards, Total Freedom 
  • Rick Fines, Solar Powered Too 
  • Lynne Hanson, Just Words 
  • Lynn Miles, We’ll Look for Stars 
  • Julian Taylor, The Ridge 
  • Steel Rail, Coming Home

Mike Regenstreif, journalist, CKCU Ottawa folk radio host, blogger  

  • Eliza Gilkyson, 2020  
  • Kronos Quartet, Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet and Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger  
  • Leyla McCalla, Varied Coloured Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes  
  • John McCutcheon, Cabin Fever: Songs From the Quarantine  
  • Lynn Miles, We’ll Look for Stars  
  • Gretchen Peters, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury  
  • Orit Shimoni, Strange and Beautiful Things  
  • Steel Rail, Coming Home  
  • VickiKristinaBarcelona, Pawn Shop Radio  
  • Samoa Wilson with the Jim Kweskin Band, I Just Want to Be Horizontal  

Brenda Tacik, host, Deeper Well, CJTR, Regina Community Radio  

  • Jud Caswell, Live at the Seagull Shop  
  • Scott Cook, Tangle of Souls  
  • Vance Gilbert, Good Good Man  
  • Jay and Jo, Victory  
  • Jez Lowe, Crazy Pagan  
  • Lynn Miles, We’ll Look for Stars  
  • Possessed by Paul James, As We Go Wandering  
  • Pharis and Jason Romero, Bet on Love  
  • Rube and Rake, Leaving With Nothing  
  • Steel Rail, Coming Home

And the overall Top 10 list as chosen by Penguin Eggs experts:

1. Pharis and Jason Romero, Bet on Love

2. Bob Dylan, Rough and Rowdy Ways; Kathleen Edwards, Total Freedom; William Prince, Reliever (tied)

5. 100 Mile House, Love and Leave You; Shirley Collins, Heart's Ease; Scott Cook, Tangle of Souls; Eliza Gilkyson, 2020; Sarah Jarosz, World on the Ground; Lynn Miles, We'll Look for Stars (tied).

Runners up

Steel Rail, Coming Home; Molly Tuttle, .. But I'd Rather Be With You

 

December 27, 2020 

RIP Tony Rice

Tony Rice, who defined modern bluegrass guitar, died Dec. 25. He was 69.

He influenced every acoustic picker we know, including Dave, who remembers having his mind blown hearing Tony gambol through a short, sweet solo on The Old Home Place with J.D. Crowe on a cassette tape back when Dave was touring Quebec with the White River Bluegrass Band.

We saw him a number of times in the 1990s at festivals like Winterhawk. On one memorable night, he turned up at a parking lot picking session that ended up with Jimmy Gaudreau, David Grisman and Jeff White. It was unforgettable, partly because it was so much fun, and because there were only a dozen or so people there to hear that amazing music.

Although he had health issues and never regained his voice after being stricken with dysphonian in the 1990s, his legend never diminished. Here`s the obituary in Rolling Stone. 

And here he is playing and singing Church Street Blues, a song that Steel Rail used to do in the wayback. 

December 15, 2020 

Coming Home one of top 10 folk albums of the year

What a nice way to wind down the year! 

Influential folk DJ Mike Regenstreif has picked Steel Rail's new album Coming Home one of the top folk albums of 2020.

Mike is the host of Saturday Morning on CKCU-FM in Ottawa.

In his Folk Roots, Folk Branches blog, Mike picked an array of artists from Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan to the Kronos Quartet for his top 10 folk-rooted or folk-branched albums of 2020.

Steel Rail was No. 7 among that illustrious group. Here's what Mike had to say about Coming Home, which was released in late spring.

Finally, 15 years after their third album, Steel Rail – the trio of Dave Clarke (lead guitar, harmony vocals), Tod Gorr (guitar, lead and harmony vocals) and Ellen Shizgal (bass, lead and harmony vocals) – has released its fourth album combining finely-crafted songs (all three contribute songs, some in collaboration with Lucinda Chodan) with sublime singing and playing from the three-way corner of folk, bluegrass and country music. 

Please check out the other artists in this list of beautiful music. Thanks to Mike, one of the first critics ever to write about Steel Rail. And  thanks to all the folk DJs around the world who connect musicians with the people who want to hear their music.

We couldn't do it without you.

 

December 6, 2020 

New Dave Clarke instrumental album has arrived!

Dave's long-awaited CD of guitar instrumentals has finally arrived. 

The Healing Garden features 12 tunes that evoke his nine-year sojourn in Western Canada and his close encounter with cancer when he was living in Edmonton. 

Eleven of the 12 songs on The Healing Garden are Dave Clarke originals. The final song, Across the Universe, is a Lennon-McCartney composition given solo guitar treatment. 

The album won't be officially released until January, but it's on sale now. For details, please see Dave's website.

December 2, 2020 

Coming Home producers nominated for folk music award

Dave Clarke and Bill Garrett have been nominated in the producer of the year category for the 2021 Canadian Folk Music Awards.

Dave and Bill were singled out for their work on Steel Rail's new album Coming Home. The 2021 CFMA winners will be announced in April.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

 

October 24, 2020 

 

A profile by our friends at Penguin Eggs

Thanks to Roddy Campbell, publisher of the Canadian folk Bible Penguin Eggs, and one of our favourite writers, Patrick Langston, for a profile of the band in the magazine's Autumn 2020 edition. 

The article is headlined "After an extended hiatus, Montreal trio returns with their state-of-the-art folkgrass," and it's written by Patrick Langston, one of Canada's most astute observers of the acoustic music scene.

Patrick cites the album's "terrific material" as he talks to Tod, Ellen and Dave; as usual, his writing is full of keen insights and authority (yes, we're prejudiced!). 

A shout-out also to Roddy, who has been publishing Penguin Eggs and shining a light on Canada's folk scene for a couple of decades. As Shelagh Rogers of CBC Radio's The Next Chapter, has said: “Penguin Eggs is profound, and analytical, and contextual, and fun. It’s really great.”

We'd certainly recommend Penguin Eggs if you are interested in Canadian folk. Check their website for back copies. Thanks again to Roddy and Patrick for the insightful profile.

September 27, 2020 

Beautiful day, beautiful festival

Thanks to everyone who came out on a balmy fall day to see us perform at the Hudson Music Festival in Hudson, Que., on Sunday afternoon.

There were lots of mask-wearing friends old and new at the show in the airy Alibi Barn on Main Road. The show was recorded by MAtv 609, télévision régionale du Grand Châteauguay, de Vaudreuil-Soulanges, du Haut-St-Laurent, du Roussillon, du Jardin-de-Napierville et de Beauharnois for broadcast later this fall.

Tod, Ellen and Dave played material from the new album, Coming Home, along with some old favourites (Prairie Sky and What My Mother Saw were highlights) as well as a couple of brand new songs: Nebraska in My Dreams and The Comet.

Thanks to organizers Blair MacKay and Lynda Clouette-MacKay, who programmed the festival -- what a treat to join Rob Lutes and KORA Flamenca in the lineup. It was magical to watch a  nearly full moon rise in the indigo sky to the sounds of kora and flamenco guitar Sunday night.

Please stay tuned for details of the MAtv broadcasts, and a big shout-out to the sponsors, including Caisse Desjardins de Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Patrimoine Canada, the town of Hudson and MAtv.

 

Previous events

May8

Steel Rail

Jan23

Steel Rail - House Concert

Morin Heights, QC

Happy new year, everyone

We're starting 2019 with a chilly flashback -- Tod walking down the centre of a secondary highway in west-central Quebec in what became the cover for our first release, A Thousand Miles of Snow.
A couple of things about the photo, taken by our talented friend Nancy Ackerman. 1. It truly was freezing that early March day near Rigaud. 2. You can faintly see some car headlights materializing over Tod's right shoulder. Several other vehicles, including an 18-wheeler, were dodged before Nancy finally got this shot.
Speaking of releases, we are happy to report that Steel Rail is finally in a studio working on some tracks for our next album. Like A Thousand Miles of Snow, it is being co-produced by our good friend Bill Garrett. We'll keep you posted re: progress as the winter progresses.
In the meantime, all the best for 2019.